In what is being described as an incident of racism, a school district in Texas has filed a complaint after some rival high school students chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!” to celebrate a basketball victory. And some of the students involved have now been punished and forced to apologize.
Student supporters at Alamo Heights High School started the celebratory chant after their team clinched a regional championship against San Antonio Edison High School on Saturday, the San Antonio News-Express reported.
Edison High School is predominantly Hispanic, and officials at the San Antonio Independent School District took the chant as a racial insult from supporters of the largely white Alamo Heights team.
According to the News-Express, the chant lasted only about five seconds before Alamo Heights head coach Andrew Brewer quickly silenced the students. Nevertheless, SAISD athletic director Gil Garza on Tuesday filed a complaint with the University Interscholastic League, which oversees extracurricular activities in Texas public schools.
“Our kids try real hard and work extra hard to get to the regional tournament, and then we have to worry about them being subjected to this kind of insensitivity,” Garza told San Antonio’s KENS-TV. “To be attacked about your ethnicity and being made to feel that you don’t belong in this country is terrible. Why can’t people just applaud our kids? It just gets old and I’m sick of it. Once again, we’re on pins and needles wondering what’s going to happen.”
Alamo Heights Independent School District Kevin Brown apologized to SAISD officials for the incident, and said some of the students who participated in the chant were Hispanic themselves. The dozen or so students identified will apologize and are barred from attending Thursday’s state semifinal game, local NBC affiliate WOAI-TV reported.
“Obviously, we were disappointed that this happened,” Brown told KENS. “That’s not who we are as a community and that’s not who we are as a school. It’s not something that’s acceptable for us. Our kids are very respectable. We have to remember that they’re teenagers, and kids make mistakes.”
He continued, “We have tried to use this as a teachable moment for them. We have talked to our students. We’ve taken responsibility for it, although what happened is not representative of everybody who was there.”
According to the News-Express, Edison coach Art Vela said his players were already in the locker room when the chant erupted and that they didn’t hear it.
Nevertheless, it’s the second year in a row such an incident has occurred after the tournament. Last year, students at a different high school chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!” and “Arizona! Arizona!” after they beat another school. The “Arizona!” chant was in reference to the state’s illegal immigration bill.
“Our kids deserve better than hearing what they did after the game from those Alamo Heights students, even if it was just for a few seconds,” Garza said. “Once it’s out, it’s out.”
Joe “Pags” Pagliarulo — a nationally syndicated radio host based in San Antonio and frequent fill-in for Glenn Beck — on Wednesday blasted the local media coverage of the controversy, saying reporters demonized the “U-S-A!” chant, rather than presenting the story as students misusing it as a taunt. Listen below: